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Janáček’s most popular work, the opera Jenufa, whose Czech title is “Her Step Daughter”, was premiered at Brno, capital of Moravia, which was underdeveloped and agrarian eastern part of the Czech State, in 1904. The composer had to wait twelve years to hear his masterpiece on the scene of Prague National Theater. Alas, his joy was somehow darkened and troubled by the “corrections” in the orchestration made by a certain Karel Kovarovic, who was afraid of Janáček’s audacious modernity. Fortunately, two years later, Jenufa was performed on the stage of Vienna State Opera House. Thanks to his triumph in Austria, Janácek’s chamber music works started to cross the borders of the Czech State. Some years later his opera was performed in England, France, Italy and USA.
The subject of Janáček’s opera is rather naturalistic: the wife of a sacristan kills the baby of her unwed stepdaughter named Jenufa. She wanted to hide the “shame” brought to the family, because the father of the child did not want to marry her. The crime of sacristan’s wife was elucidated. Fortunately, Jenufa finally finds the happiness in the union with another man. The composer was inspired by naturalistic drama by Gabriela Preissová, written in 1890 and based on a news item. Another Czech writer, Karel Capek (1890-1938), inspired Janácek’s work entitled “The Case Macropulos” (1923-1925). His only comic opera entitled “The Cunning Little Vixen” written in 1928.
Janáček’s second most popular opera “Katya Kabanova”, written between 1919 and 1921, is inspired by Russian writer Alexander Ostrowsky’s (1823-1886) play “The Storm” which contains some dark naturalistic elements too.
Janáček’s opus posthumous, opera “From the House of the Dead”, represented in 1930 and inspired by the Russian writer Fiodor Dostoïewsky (1821-1881) is the most tragic and desolate but at the same time pungent and original.
Operas by Moravian composer nowadays emulate with Italian ones on the international scenes.
However, some musicologists consider Janáček’s oratorio “Missa Solene Glagolitica”, composed in 1926, his major work and one of the major choral works written in 20th Century. In this work Janáček uses a liturgical text in Slave ecclesiastic idiom.
Despite the originality of his conceptions and the “modernity” of his often-audacious music language and syntax, Leos Janáček was romantic by his artistic nature. He underwent influences by Schumann, by Mussorgsky, maybe by Debussy too, especially in his piano works and his second String Quartet.
(Contribution by Jean-François Grancher <email@example.com>.)
Janáček studied in Prague, Leipzig and Wien. From 1881 till 1888 he worked as conductor of the Philharmonic society there. He established his own style in composition after intense studies of volkmusic and the melody of the spoken language. However, in this time Janáček still was not important in Prague. This changed quickly with his originally in 1904 written opera “Jenufa”, which was perfomed in 1916 in Prague and later in Wien. In 1919 Janáček became Professor of composition at the Conservatorium in Prague, which he led till 1925. The late operas “Katja Kabanova” (1921) and “Das schlaue Füchslein” (“The Cunning Vixen”) (1924) became a great success. Janáček died on August 12th 1928 in Ostrava.
(Contribution by <Anne27@web.de>.)